Friday, October 22, 2004

Schubert's Piano Sonata No.21 D960

Today I bought Kovacevich's EMI recording of Schubert's greatest piano sonata. I've got several recordings of this sonata already, namely those of Kempff, Curzon and Richter; they are very different interpretations, now I've got one more. I always like Kovacevich's Beethoven, yet this is his first Schubert CD I've got.

Among the great composers for the piano, Schubert was himself no virtuoso. This is reflected in the absence of bravura passages in his piano works which, perhaps with the exception of the Wanderer Fantasy, make no great technical demands on a performer. This is not to say that his piano works are easy to perform. On the contrary, as most of his piano sonatas display a flexibility of structure and an adventurous handling of harmony and tone, they cause problems to many players. A good pianist can make a big difference to what a Schubert's sonata should sound like, this is especially the case with his late sonatas; those are long musical soliloquies that constantly repeat and reformulate themes as if they were persistent memories. They may sound terribly boring if the player cannot bring out the cogency of the longer spans; in the hands of a great player, however, they become the most sublime and breath-taking music. Kovacevich is certainly an artist of such caliber; his account sounds fresh and bold, yet not without introspectiveness; the tonal beauty and depths of feeling he brings to this sonata is very impressive indeed.

His complete Beethoven cycle is available now, it's simply a matter of time before I grab a box; it costs about US$100, I guess I need to wait for a sale.


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